Skip to content

Written by Texas Highways

Here, writer/photographer/artist E. Dan Klepper expands on Fort Concho’s living history programs.“Living history” programs, defined as various activities recreating the living conditions of the past, feature prominently in the events calendar at Fort Concho National Historic Landmark. Not to be confused with “reenactments,” which generally recreate a battle or other historical event, living-history events provide a way to relive our heritage by witnessing the day-to-day enterprise of our ancestors.

For instance, a fiery, ear-splitting spectacle performed by the Fort Concho Artillery features the Fort’s cannon, a replica of the weapon assigned to the Fort between 1875 and 1889. The cannon has the power to blast a nine-and-a-half-pound solid shot across 1,800 yards using a pound of powder or, for a more broad spectrum target, an exploding tin can containing iron balls called a “canister.” Cannon blasts highlight a number of events scheduled throughout the year at the Fort.

You can also see Company A of the 10th Cavalry, also known as the Buffalo Soldiers, who make appearances throughout the year. The Company features volunteers who follow the late-19th-Century military rank and procedures, dressed in period uniforms and outfitted with authentic equipment, all part of the accurate portrayal of the era. Also present and accounted for are members of Company D of the 4th Cavalry, a unit stationed at Fort Concho between 1871 and 1873. The regiment’s commander, Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, was considered a well-known military officer in the South. Mackenzie, instrumental as a brevetted major general in the final campaign against Robert E. Lee, assumed command of the 4th Cavalry on February 25, 1871, spending a month at Fort Concho before moving the 4th’s headquarters to Fort Richardson. Company D, however, remained at Fort Concho.

Frontier military life wasn’t all work, however. Fort Concho’s Vintage Base Ball (two words - correct spelling for the times) Program features a winning team in period clothing using authentic equipment to play ball against local civilian teams. Volunteer players and competing teams are always needed but players should bone up on the 1887 base ball playbook, as the Fort’s vintage club plays by 19th-Century rules.

Scheduled events featuring Fort Concho’s living history programs vary. Check the Fort’s website for upcoming events.

For the November 2012 “Taste” department, Senior Editor Lori Moffatt discovered the complexities and health benefits of balsamic vinegar at a class at Con’Olio, an olive-oil-and-balsamic-vinegar tasting bar in Austin. She followed up recently with Con’Olio co-owner Jeff Conarko to learn more about the business and how a sip of vinegar (trust us; it’s delicious!) may keep holiday weight-gain at bay.

“My wife, Tabatha, and I worked at Dell for many years, and our hobby has been traveling to Europe, cooking, and drinking wine. We noticed that when we went to Europe, the quality of the oils and vinegars were of a much higher quality than what we found here at home, even at the highest price point. What we learned is that olive oils are supposed to be eaten fresh, in the season they were produced, otherwise they start to lose their fragrance, flavor, and antioxidants. Most of the olive oil sold isn’t fresh.

“And the vinegar is different, too. True balsamic vinegars are made by only 55 families in the world, all in Modena, Italy. The vinegars are aged in barrels according to a 1,000-year-old, trademarked process.

 “In the end, olive oil should taste and smell fresh, like it just came from a tree, and vinegar should taste sweet, smooth, and thick. Our concept at Con’ Olio is that we import the best oils and vinegars, but we also encourage people to taste them, to sip them, to appreciate them.

“I hear this from new customers a lot: ‘You want me taste olive oil? I don’t want to do that without bread!’ Or ‘What? You want me to sip vinegar like wine?’ But then they do, and they have their eyes opened.”

“The word ‘balsamic’ actually comes from the Latin word for ‘cure’ or ‘medicine.” I teach a class at St. David’s Hospital about how to use vinegar to control diabetes and bring about health benefits, including weight loss. As balsamic vinegar ages, the acidity changes and sugars come to the forefront. There’s not a lot of sugar, but it tastes sweet, and taken with food, vinegar lowers the glycemic index of whatever you eat, slowing the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. For diabetics, at St. David’s we recommend three tablespoons of vinegar in the morning to kick-start your metabolism.

“Here’s a very simple recipe to try: With our vinegar, which is already sweet and thick, you don’t need to ‘reduce’ it, a step called for in many recipes here in the United States. Just mix it with fresh olive oil, one part to one part, and use it as a marinade or as a basic vinaigrette.

“One of my favorite recipes uses our Tuscan herb olive oil and espresso balsamic vinegar as a steak marinade.

“And if you want to try sipping it for health benefits, try a little espresso balsamic to sweeten your coffee, or try a few tablespoons of pineapple balsamic in some soda water.”

The November 2012 issue features San Angelo’s cultural offerings. Here, writer/photographer/artist E. Dan Klepper expands on Fort Concho’s living history programs.

“Living history” programs, defined as various activities recreating the living conditions of the past, feature prominently in the events calendar at Fort Concho National Historic Landmark. Not to be confused with “reenactments,” which generally recreate a battle or other historical event, living-history events provide a way to relive our heritage by witnessing the day-to-day enterprise of our ancestors.

For instance, a fiery, ear-splitting spectacle performed by the Fort Concho Artillery features the Fort’s cannon, a replica of the weapon assigned to the Fort between 1875 and 1889. The cannon has the power to blast a nine-and-a-half-pound solid shot across 1,800 yards using a pound of powder or, for a more broad spectrum target, an exploding tin can containing iron balls called a “canister.” Cannon blasts highlight a number of events scheduled throughout the year at the Fort.

You can also see Company A of the 10th Cavalry, also known as the Buffalo Soldiers, who make appearances throughout the year. The Company features volunteers who follow the late-19th-Century military rank and procedures, dressed in period uniforms and outfitted with authentic equipment, all part of the accurate portrayal of the era. Also present and accounted for are members of Company D of the 4th Cavalry, a unit stationed at Fort Concho between 1871 and 1873. The regiment’s commander, Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, was considered a well-known military officer in the South. Mackenzie, instrumental as a brevetted major general in the final campaign against Robert E. Lee, assumed command of the 4th Cavalry on February 25, 1871, spending a month at Fort Concho before moving the 4th’s headquarters to Fort Richardson. Company D, however, remained at Fort Concho.

Frontier military life wasn’t all work, however. Fort Concho’s Vintage Base Ball (two words - correct spelling for the times) Program features a winning team in period clothing using authentic equipment to play ball against local civilian teams. Volunteer players and competing teams are always needed but players should bone up on the 1887 baseball playbook, as the Fort’s vintage club plays by 19th-Century rules.

Scheduled events featuring Fort Concho’s living history programs vary. Check the Fort’s website for upcoming events at www.fortconcho.com.

Honor Flight transports Texas veterans to national memorials

 By Nola McKey

Frequent one of the state’s airports often enough, and you’re likely to witness the following: A voice comes over the PA system and says, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re fortunate to have with us a group of America’s Greatest Generation—World War II veterans who are leaving today for Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Memorial built in their honor. Please join us in giving them a round of applause.” Then, a uniformed honor guard carrying seven flags (the American flag, the Texas flag, and one representing each branch of the U.S. military) leads a procession of 25 to 100 elderly veterans—some of them in wheelchairs and each with an assigned “guardian” (helper)—as they make their way through the airport to their departure gate.

'Ladies and gentlemen, we’re fortunate to have with us a group of America’s Greatest Generation—World War II veterans who are leaving today for Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Memorial built in their honor.'

 “What happens next is really a phenomenon,” says Allen Bergeron, chairman of Honor Flight Austin, a regional hub of the nationwide Honor Flight Network. “Everyday traveling citizens spontaneously line up alongside the procession, applauding the veterans, shaking their hands, and thanking them for their service. Many people tear up—it’s an emotional experience, for both the bystanders and the veterans.”

The veterans go on to visit the World War II Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and others, as well as Arlington National Cemetery, in Washington, D.C., receiving acclamation all along the way. Honor Flight, a nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to transporting America’s veterans to the memorials that honor their service and sacrifice, provides lodging, meals, and transportation, as well as other assistance. Many veterans report being deeply moved by the experience of seeing the memorials, as well as the gratitude shown to them by the American public during the trip. Some say they have a feeling of closure as they say a final goodbye to lost comrades.

Founded in 2005, Honor Flight has served more than 85000 veterans from 117 hubs in 40 states. Veterans from all branches of the U.S. military and from all wars are eligible for the program, but World War II veterans, along with those from any war who have a terminal disease, receive top priority.

“Time is not on our side,” says Bergeron. “World War II veterans are dying at about 800 to 900 a day. We’re trying to identify as many eligible veterans as possible and raise funds to make more of these a reality.” To contact the hub nearest you, volunteer, or make a donation, call 937/521-2400, or visit www.honorflight.org.

Barbara Jordan’s booming voice and unparalleled oratorical skills cemented her place among the great speakers of our history. Known for her inspiring words, Jordan spoke for commencements, conferences, keynote addresses, and news articles. Here are a few of our favorite quotes from the former state Senator.

 

By Dale Weisman

The Stone Age peoples of the Americas go by many names: Paleoindians, Paleo-Americans, First Americans, Pleistocene peoples, and Clovis culture.

 Many archeologists have long believed that Clovis culture was the oldest Paleoindian tradition, flourishing briefly during the late Pleistocene epoch from roughly 13,500 to 13,000 years ago. Clovis culture is defined by a signature lithic (stone tool) technology – large bifacial spear points thinned and fluted (grooved) at the base, presumably to ease attachment to the shafts of spears and atlatl darts. These beautifully crafted Clovis points embodied the Swiss Army knives of their time, used to hunt Pleistocene megafauna and also serving as trade goods, burial offerings, and perhaps status symbols.

Clovis culture gets its name from Clovis, New Mexico, near a “kill site” called Blackwater Draw, where archeologists found fluted Clovis points next to mammoth bones in the 1930s – unequivocal proof that Clovis culture dated to the late Pleistocene. Similar Clovis kill sites and caches of Clovis artifacts have turned up across North America, with the heaviest concentration in the Southeast. The rarest type of Clovis site is the base camp, epitomized by the famous Gault site in Bell County in Central Texas, the largest known source of Clovis artifacts to date.

Throughout the 20th Century, most Paleoindian experts believed that Clovis was the first culture of the Americas. According to this “Clovis-first” theory, highly mobile big-game hunters from Central Asia crossed the Beringia land bridge connecting Siberia to Alaska when sea levels were much lower than today at the end of the last Ice Age. They proceeded south through an ice-free corridor between glaciers and spread throughout the Americas in a lethal blitzkrieg, hunting mammoths and other megafauna to extinction. Or so the old theory goes.

“We honed the Clovis-first theory for more than 70 years, but a few of us for a long time thought there were an awful lot of flaws in the model,” says Clovis expert Mike Collins. He is among a growing number of experts who believe that humans reached the Americas long before the Clovis tradition appeared.

Paleo-experts are also challenging the “overkill theory” that Clovis big-game hunters wiped out all the megafauna. A more plausible theory suggests that the mass extinction of megafauna in the Americas resulted from climate change at the end the last Ice Age, causing shifts in ecosystems and plant communities that ultimately doomed ill-adapted mammals. Others point to the possibility of highly infectious hyper-diseases introduced by humans or even a cataclysmic comet or meteor impact. Many experts now believe the extinction process in the Pleistocene was gradual and complex, involving the interplay of human and climatic pressures.

 The Clovis-first model began to crumble in the 1970s and ’80s when archeologists discovered numerous “pre-Clovis” sites in North and South America with lithic artifacts predating Clovis occupation by hundreds and even thousands of years. In recent years, the Gault site and neighboring Laura L. Friedkin site along Buttermilk Creek in Central Texas have yielded definitive evidence of human occupation much older than Clovis. Lithic artifacts unearthed at the Friedkin site date back 15,500 years, and similarly ancient stone tools have been excavated at the Gault site. Discoveries like these have shattered the Clovis-first model, and nowadays pre-Clovis advocates greatly outnumber “Clovis-firsters.”

“The term ‘pre-Clovis’ has become tainted,” cautions Collins. “To some it means Clovis ancestors. To others it simply means something older than Clovis. I prefer ‘older than Clovis.’ Clovis used to be the beginning, and now it is the midpoint for the chronology of human presence in the New World.”

 Although the age of Clovis-first orthodoxy has come to an end, there is no general consensus for a new model for the peopling of the Americas. Some experts speculate human migrations came in waves along multiple routes and over many thousands of years. In addition to walking to the New World, Pleistocene peoples also could have migrated by watercraft and traveled down one or both coasts. After all, prehistoric humans reach Australia by sea 50,000 years ago – they had boats!

 “I think the Americas were peopled on the Pacific side from Asia and on the Atlantic side from Europe, and both populations began to spread,” says Collins.

One of the most controversial migration models is the “Solutrean hypothesis.” This model proposes that people from the Solutrean culture, which existed in Spain and France 15,000-21,000 years, crossed the ice-bound North Atlantic in animal-skin boats, similar to Inuit sealskin kayaks, reaching the eastern seaboard of North America and evolving into the Clovis culture. Proponents of the Solutrean model point to the similarity of each culture’s lithic tools and tool-making techniques, but skeptics and critics dismiss the theory as implausible if not impossible. The “Siberia versus Iberia” migration debate rages on, and fresh discoveries of artifacts older than Clovis raise new questions.

“This is an exciting time in archeology because it is so open and there are so many hypotheses for the peopling of the Americas that should be investigated,” says Eileen Johnson, executive director of the Museum of Texas Tech University in Lubbock. “Shutting the door on new ideas and saying people were not here before Clovis stifles creative thinking. Science is about pushing the envelope, looking at new ideas and testing hypotheses.”

For further reading on Paleoindians, the peopling of the Americas, Texas prehistoric archeology and Pleistocene mammals, find these books at your local library, bookstore or Amazon.com.

  •  Clovis Lithic Technology: Investigation of a Stratified Workshop at the Gault Site, Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2011) by Michael R. Waters, Charlotte D. Pevny and David L. Carlson
  • First Peoples in a New World: Colonizing Ice Age America (University of California Press, 2009) by David J. Meltzer
  • Across Atlantic Ice: The Origin of America’s Clovis Culture (University of California Press, 2012) by Dennis J. Stanford and Bruce A. Bradley; foreword by Michael B. Collins
  • The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archaeology’s Greatest Mystery (Random House, 2002) by J.M. Adovasio with Jake Page.
  • In Search of Ice Age Americans (Gibbs Smith, 2002) by Kenneth Tankersley
  • Lubbock Lake: Late Quaternary Studies on the Southern High Plains (Texas A&M University Press, 1987) edited by Eileen Johnson
  • Deep Time and the Texas High Plains (Texas Tech University Press, 2005) by Paul H. Carlson
  • In Search of Ancient North America: An Archaeological Journey to Forgotten Cultures (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996) by Heather Pringle
  • A Field Guide to Stone Artifacts of Texas Indians (Gulf Publishing 1999) by Ellen Sue Turner and Thomas R. Hester.
  • Flintknapping: Making & Understanding Stone Tools (University of Texas Press, 1994) by John C. Whittaker
  • Mammoths: Giants of the Ice Age (University of California Press, 2007) by Adrian Lister and Paul Bahn
  • Ice Age Mammals of North America: A Guide to the Big, the Hairy, and the Bizarre (Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2002) by Ian M. Lange.

In the February issue of Texas Highways, writer Mary O. Parker delves into the sweet success of Lammes Candies, which has been making fine chocolates in Austin for more than 100 years. In the 1970s, Lammes debuted its now-popular chocolate-covered strawberries, which attract customers by the droves—especially in February. But it’s possible to make your own. We can’t guarantee they’ll be as pretty, but it’s hard to go wrong, taste-wise, with berries and chocolate.  The only special equipment you need is some parchment paper or wax paper.  Some recipes call for adding instant coffee granules, liqueurs, and fruit zest, but this recipe keeps things simple.

Blanche Caldwell Barrow and Clyde Barrow (teenager). (Photos courtesy of Whitehead Memorial Museum, Del Rio)

Among the best known of the criminal enterprises in Texas was the group known as the Barrow Gang. The only two individuals continuously associated with the group were Bonnie Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow. Their trail of crime covered much of Texas as well as places as distant as Minnesota and Indiana.

During the era of gangsters and organized crime, 
Texas hosted its fair share of guns, gambling, moonshine, morphine, ransom and robbery.

A dapper Tom Lea, with the desert landscape he loved best stretching toward his own Franklin Mountains. (Photo copyright Will Van Overbeek)

El Pasoans celebrate their famous native son every October with a month of art, literature, and history events.

 

A fresh look at Vietnamese cooking in Austin

Shrimp-and-sweet-potato fritters, a rice vermicelli bowl topped with barbecued pork and egg rolls, and custard-filled cream puffs at Austin’s Tam Deli.  (Photo by Michael Amador)
By Lori Moffatt
Some of my favorite restaurants lie in homely North Austin strip malls surrounded by discount cell-phone providers, used-tire outlets, pawn shops, locksmiths, and public storage facilities. When I’m seeking culinary adventures on a budget, I traipse north of US 183, where a several-mile stretch of Lamar Boulevard harbors the most ethnically diverse assortment of restaurants in the city. Here is where you’ll find vegetarian Indian dosas (think crunchy 18-inch crepes), Korean grilled mackerel, Indian popsickles called kulfi, Hong Kong-style curry buns, and grocery stores specializing in fascinating foodstuffs from throughout the world.

I’m willing to forgive the often-uninspired décor and unflattering lighting for a chance to taste something I’ve never had before. But recently, as foodie friends have adopted a preference for organic and locally sourced cuisine, it’s harder to persuade them to make the trek. Let’s face it: While I’ve always found the food on North Lamar’s restaurant row to be delicious and fresh, these are not restaurants where the cooks have coddled their chickens.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed successful chefs in Austin turning ethnic street food on its ear by preparing it with organic meat and produce. And in the case of Vietnamese food in town, when I dug a little deeper, I discovered a heartening connection between one of the savviest restaurateurs in Austin and a 13-year-old Vietnamese deli known for its baguette sandwiches and cream puffs.

In late 2011, chefs and restaurateurs Larry McGuire and Tom Moorman opened a Vietnamese-French restaurant called Elizabeth Street Café in a former coffee shop in south Austin. Not only do they use organic meats and locally sourced pro-
duce, but the décor here—inspired by 1950s Hanoi—makes the café as worthy of a date night as a quick lunch.

What I love about Vietnamese fare—whether it’s prepared at Elizabeth Street Café or at the myriad mom-and-pop joints on North Lamar—lies in its beguiling contrasts: the aroma of grilled meats with fresh mint, basil, and cilantro; the acidic kick of lime and chilies; the curious saltiness of ubiquitous, anchovy-based fish sauce. When it’s cold outside, I crave a satisfying bowl of the noodle soup called pho, fragrant from hours of simmering and brightened at the table with creamy-white bean sprouts, sprigs of basil and cilantro, and a liberal squeeze of lime. Sometimes I’ll order a dish called the banh xeo, a crispy, rice-flour crepe served with a salty-sweet-sour dipping sauce called nuoc cham.

Elizabeth Street Café reinterprets Vietnamese fare with organic meats and locally sourced produce. (Photo by Michael Amador) On my last visit to Elizabeth Street, I dug into a simple banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich made with barbecued pork, shredded 
carrot and cucumber, and thin slices of jalapeños. “What’s cool about Vietnam
ese food is that it’s based 
on inexpensive cuts of meat, noodles and rice, and fresh herbs and vegetables,” Larry told me. “But the reason it works so well in Texas is that it’s a hot-climate food. It’s light and satisfying at the same time, with changes of both texture and temperature—like when you add cold bean sprouts and fresh herbs to a hot soup.”

A few days later at lunch up on North Lamar, I savored spoonfuls of rich beef broth at a little spot called Tam Deli, slurping noodles and watching sisters Tam Bui and Tran Ngoc dash from kitchen to table with platters of soups, vermicelli bowls, and banh mi sandwiches.  On the wall next to the bakery case, which is filled with cream puffs and sticky-rice snacks, there’s a photo of Lady Bird Johnson and her family at Tam Deli, along with images of the sisters as teenagers in Vietnam. Water trickled from a bamboo fountain near the doorway, and each time an order was ready, Tam or Tran would ring a little bell, and out came another tempting dish I’d vow to order next time.

Tran was a student at the University of Texas during the 1970s, and after the fall of Saigon in ’75, her family made its way to Texas. Eventually, Tran and Tam opened a restaurant, using family recipes passed down from their mother and relatives in Vietnam.

Famous for its delicate, custard-filled cream puffs; its fabulous banh mi; and during the holidays, its French bûche nöel cake, Tam Deli nonetheless has items on the menu that don’t appeal to me personally. I was unimpressed recently with a salt-and-pepper squid platter (too fried and too plain), but of course home-cooking of all genres has both bold and simple flavors. “I would say that my favorite thing on the menu is our banh xeo,” says Tran. “It’s shrimp and pork in a crepe, and we serve it with leaf lettuce and herbs, and you wrap it up and dip it in nuac cham. We eat that sauce with everything.”

Later, I asked Larry what he thought about some of my North Lamar favorites. “I think the banh mi at Tam Deli is really good,” he told me. “In fact, some of the things on our menu are homages to the menu at Tam, like our shrimp-and-yam fritters.  I’ve been eating at Tam Deli since I was in middle school. I’d go there with my mom, and it was one of my favorite places to eat.”

“Vietnamese food, in general, is very light, fresh, and satisfying,” says Tran. “To newcomers, I would say, just give the food a try. I think you will like it.”

Ray's Drive Inn, a west San Antonio landmark since 1956, opened with a menu of fried chicken and burgers, but quickly became famous for puffy tacos. (Photo by Kevin Stillman)

Driving around the state researching Texas food history for my new cookbook, Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook, I found out that a heritage food revival is colliding with new cultural currents in the Lone Star State—resulting in all kinds of delicious combinations and mash-ups.

 

Back to top